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How to Eat for Muscle Building

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Bodybuilding and Fitness Newsletter 9/22/2021

Here's How You Should Eat for the Best Results from High-Intensity Training

High-intensity training, or HIT, is a popular protocol for those looking to get bigger because it can be very efficient, provided you work hard enough. But no matter how intensely you train, your results won’t be optimal unless you also have a sound eating plan.

So, just how should you be eating if you want to get the most muscle building results out of HIT?

There is probably no one perfect answer for every lifter, but there are some guiding principles that can help you hone in on your best diet.

Get Enough Protein

You’re in the gym, and that means that you want to build muscle. Muscle is made up of protein (and water and fat and a smidge of carbohydrates), and you can only build your OWN protein by consuming amino acids.

You get amino acids from the protein in your diet, which means you need to prioritize quality sources like lean meats, eggs, dairy, and fish. You can also get SOME protein from plant sources like peanut butter and beans, but realize those are incomplete proteins and will require you to eat them in combination with other foods to get the aminos you need.

In general, aim for about one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight a day when you’re trying to build muscle. Construct your meals around this idea, and everything else will fall into place much more easily.

Eat Carbohydrates for Energy

You read a lot about low-carb diets or other specialized eating plans aimed at one particular outcome or another, but most lifters would do well to get their energy needs from carbohydrates, at least as a starting point.

The carbohydrates that you eat are converted into glucose (or blood sugar) by the digestion process and then stored in your muscle cells as glycogen. Glycogen is then available to fuel muscular contractions when you work out.

While it’s true that the full energy pathways involved are more complicated than this brief description allows and that SOME people may perform better with a high-fat diet, most guys be best served with carbs as their energy source for intense workouts.

You can’t eat just any old carb and hope to stay healthy and happy, though. Opt for whole, unprocessed sources like rice, oats, potatoes, fruits, and vegetables for the most part. If you tolerate wheat OK, then whole-grain products might work for you, too.

As for how many carbs to eat, a decent starting point is 1.5-2 grams per pound of bodyweight a day, and then you can adjust up or down depending on your goals and energy levels.

Don’t Forget Healthy Fats

Most people don’t need to make a special effort to eat MORE fat, as your animal proteins will provide a decent amount even if you choose lean sources.

You can and should choose your food sources to include plenty of quality fats, though. Almonds and other nuts, natural peanut butter, fish oil, fatty fish like salmon, free-range eggs, and grass-feed beef will provide omega-3 and other “good” fats to help your energy systems stay running at peak levels and keep you healthy while you gain.

Calories and Vitamins

Beyond macros — proteins, carbs, and fats — you also need to consider your total energy expenditure and intake of trace nutrients.

As a rule of thumb, start with about 15 times your weight in pounds as your daily calorie goal if you’re trying to gain weight. For a 150 pound lifter, that would work out to 2250 calories a day. Monitor your weight for a week or so, and then bump that number up or down depending on how fast (or not) you’re gaining.

No matter how many calories you eat each day, you need to make sure and get a full supply of vitamins and minerals to ensure both optimal health and the best possible results from your training. For most people, there is no need to go much beyond the US recommended daily allowances, or RDA, for any one nutrient. Fruits and vegetables will cover most of your bases, but it might not be a bad idea to include a quality multivitamin in your regimen.

With all of these tips in mind, the first and most important goal of any nutrition program is to get and keep you healthy, which is why you should always consult your physician when making any lifestyle change. If you have a clean bill of health, though, sensible, balanced eating will help you get the most out of your HIT program.

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